UK deaths pass 30,000, Spain extends state of alarm

Madrid Desk, May 6 (efe-epa).- Health authorities in the United Kingdom said 649 people had died from Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, which brings the overall number of fatalities in the country above the grisly milestone of 30,000 and cements it as the worst-affected country in Europe.

The latest figures put the overall death toll in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland at 30,076, Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, said in the Conservative government’s daily briefing.

There were also another 6,111 confirmed cases between Tuesday and Wednesday, meaning there have been a total of 201,101 cases detected in the country.

The government said it had carried out 69,463 tests in the last 24 hours, which was below the government target of 100,000 daily.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to give details on the first gradual de-escalation of the UK lockdown on Sunday.

Earlier, the Conservative Party leader faced off with the new head of the opposition Labour Party Keir Starmer in the House of Commons for the first time since returning to work after recovering from Covid-19, which left him in need of intensive care in London.

Johnson warned that lifting the lockdown in a way that risked a secondary wave of infections would lead to economic disaster in the country.

Starmer pressed him on the number of tests being carried out in the UK.

Johnson said: “Capacity currently exceeds demand, we’re working on that, we’re running at about 100,000 a day, but the ambition clearly is to get up to 200,000 a day by the end of this month and then to go even higher.”

Starmer criticized Johnson’s government for what he said was a slow response to the pandemic and asked how it was possible that the UK had now surpassed Italy in terms of official death toll in and was now the second-deadliest in the world, after the United States.

Johnson said it was too early to make international comparisons.

Italy’s daily death toll took a jump up to 369 in the last 24 hours after several days of hovering around the 200-mark. Some 29,684 people have died from Covid-19 overall. The country began opening its economy again on 4 May.

Spain, meanwhile, has extended its state of alarm by two weeks, granting the government extra powers to restrict the movement of citizens as it prepares for a four-stage de-escalation of what is one of the harshest lockdowns in the world.

The process required the backing of lawmakers and sparked the kind of political tussle that has become customary in Spain during the pandemic.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez was able to secure the backing of 178 votes in favor of the measure, more than the simple majority needed in the 350-seat Congress. But there were also 75 votes against, including those from far-right Vox and left-wing Catalan separatist ERC.

There were 97 abstentions, mainly from the benches of the conservative opposition Popular Party.

“Lifting the state of alarm now would be a complete and unforgivable error,” the prime minister told the chamber during the debate on Wednesday morning.

PP leader Pablo Casado ordered his 88 MPs to withhold their support but warned it would be the last time and that his conservative benches would vote against it should the PM look to renew it again in 15 days without bringing a “Plan B.”

“Don’t come back asking for loyalty and unity from the opposition,” he said.

The European Commission on Wednesday said it expected the Spanish economy to contract by 9.4 percent and for unemployment to go up by 18.9 percent this year as a consequence of the lockdown enforced to stem the spread of Covid-19.

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